Urban Cycling: Weiss Don’t Know Jack

I’ve been stewing over Councilman Jack Weiss’ statement about the inherent dangers of biking in Los Angeles ever since I read it in a post by Eric Richardson on Blogdowntown that reported on a Feb. 12 joint City Council committees meeting about how the city can better plan for bicycles. In the post, Richardson wrote that Weiss said “he rides daily before sunrise, but doesn’t feel it safe to ride L.A. streets during the day.” To be sure it’s a throw-away comment that better people can just let go, but this one that landed in my craw and stuck there.

I’m not going to dispute Weiss’ blanket impression of the risks out there on the asphalt, but as someone who regularly does “ride L.A. streets during the day” (and night) I can’t help but wonder from what experience he draws upon to fire such a loaded statement. I’d hazard the answer is: little to none. Sure, he may indeed rise before dawn every day and pedal around whatever neighborhood he lives in, but the idea of Weiss having biked to work seems only slightly less remote than that of our absentee mayor what’s his name cranking it across town from Hancock Park to City Hall.

I know there’s danger out there. As such I ride trying never to forget that I’m only as safe as the least attentive/considerate motor vehicle operator around me, and I know that my comfort level with the streets and the traffic and the rugged ragged road conditions is developed from some 20 years of commuting experience — most of it entirely uneventful. I also know that comfort level is the exception and not the rule. But unlike Weiss tossing off the same ol’ conventional doom ‘n gloom that can be discouraging to anyone considering cycling (or frustrating to those of us who do), it’s at least from a couple decades accumulated experience that I can say I feel pretty safe riding the streets of the city, under the sun or moon.

Like today. And tonight. As evidenced in this quick ‘n dirty sequence of snaps taken via handlebar cam on my morning and evening commutes; a total of 30 miles (I even took the long way home up into a bit of Weiss’ territory, just as a neener). I did it yesterday. I’ll do it tomorrow. You could do it, too. And so could you, Jack.

See you on the streets!

9 Replies to “Urban Cycling: Weiss Don’t Know Jack”

  1. I bike almost daily in a city (DC, not LA… yet) and I, like you, am mostly comfortable doing so. That being said, I don’t think it’s totally ridiculous for someone to have an alternate opinion about the relative safety of the endeavor. I know a lot of people who feel the same way about city biking as the councilman… namely that the presence of cars and bikes in such frequent and close proximity places bikes in considerable danger, especially considering the extreme vulnerability of a biker compared to that of a driver (and the relative carelessness of your average driver).

    I’ve done it enough that I’m either comfortable with the risk, or foolishly downplay it, but I’m not going to tell someone they’re necessarily wrong about having a contrary opinion on this point. Being hit by a car is a terrifying experience, much more so on a bike than in another car, and I can see how people would find the threat of such an incident to be a major turnoff to city biking.

    Anyway, I’ll be in LA, with my bicycle, this summer, maybe I can give you an update on relative safety then.

  2. RD, no surprise: I guess I failed to make my point or muddled it along the way. As I said in the post I’m aware of the dangers and aware that my comfort level on the streets differs from most other cyclists. I also said I’m not disputing Weiss’ assessment.

    So what’s my beef? Mainly that the councilman isn’t speaking from specific experience and instead just perpetuating the negative — and at a time when interest in bicycling here is resurging but also still struggling to find its place on the streets and the civic agendas and budgets. Certainly Weiss is still entitled to his opinion, but I’m not sure why you’re so eager to close me off from offering a counterpoint.

    As someone who’s proactive and postitive in my efforts to increase interest in bike commuting I don’t think I’m out of bounds in saying “hey from my perspective above the handlebars it ain’t that bad out there.” If I come off heavy handed or defensive it’s because I love cycling like a younger brother and I’m gonna defend it from the bullies out there.

    Could Los Angeles be a better safer place to ride? No doubt. Will it? Not with civic leaders who accentuate the negative instead of the positive.

  3. No problem, RD. Maybe when you and your bike are out here during the summer it’ll coincide with a Midnight Ridazz or a Ride-Arc or a Sins ‘N Sprockets ride and you can get a nice feel for our burgeoning bike culta.

  4. Maybe, though you guys tend to bike much farther than I do. I’m more of a four miles max type of rider (city commuting), whereas from what I’ve seen on Metroblogging, you guys are more of the 30 miles plus type riders. I’d probably just fall over and die after 10.

  5. Will keep the pressure on the city. Biking is a very viable way to commute and get around. I miss my bike.

    What we need to press for is more dedicated bikeways in the city between major job centers. Dedicated bikeways IE their own private roadway using exisiting rights of ways, separated from other traffic will make it safer for both.

    Also we need to remove the limits on Metro when you can bring a bike aboard. Imagine the increase in ridership if folks could have a spot to set their bikes during commute hours then simply bike from the station to work or home. Works in other cities, why not here?

    Bikes are a terrific option to get around. Keep up the fight am here supporting you and tossing out ways I see to make it better.

  6. Thanks Fraz,

    The MTA has been a thorn in my sidewall regarding bikes on its rail lines since waaaaaaay back in 1993 when the first 800 feet of Metro Redline opened up (or maybe it was 8,000 feet; either way it was short and cute and almost entirely useless). After my inaugural ride on the subway I went to great and enthusiastic lengths calling the MTA board to task for failing to accommodate bikes. I even went as far as my rudimentary drawing skills would take me in drafting visuals of how this could be accomplished by the removal of one row of seats per car to be used instead to stow two or three bikes. In these prehistoric days before the internest I had all this stuff printed up at Kinko’s and regular-mailed to each boardmember.

    The response, no surprise: categorical snubbage. I didn’t even get so much as a token thankyouforyourinterestbutnothankyou.

  7. I agree with all of the comments posted so far. I’m a daily bike commuter that rides 10 miles each way. But on lazy days I take the Red Line in the pre-coffee morning.

    Will and frazgo are totally correct in saying that Metro has virtually no bike love, but I just want to make it clear to anyone who is thinking about taking the Red, Gold, Blue and whatever stupid color they’ve now assigned to the Wilshire / Western part of the subway:

    Although you’re technicaly not supposed to take a bike on the trains during rush hour, I have NEVER seen that rule enforced. So apparently their policy and infrastructure are severly lacking, but at least their enforcement is too! So feel free to bring your bikes on the trains anytime, and let’s work towards making conditions on the rails better for cyclists.

    P.S. Metrolink has THE most bike friendly trains in L.A. Too bad I don’t live in the sticks.

  8. City Councilmember Weiss determines that it’s unsafe to ride a bike on the streets of Los Angeles in the daytime. So what does he do? He gets off the bike.

    Thanks for representin’!

    Our streets will be safer when our leadership looks at an opportunity to be of service and says, “I’m gonna make this a safe street!”

    Would this be too much to ask of the Chair of the Public Safety Committee?

    I think not.

    Yo, Jack! Our streets will be safer for cyclists when there are more cyclists on the street! Get back on the bike!

    See you on the Streets!

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